JUDGE JAMES L. OAKES

A Brattleboro Words Trail Site

Judge James L. Oakes:

The Brattleboro Post Office & U.S. District Court

Up until September 29, 2017, Brattleboro’s stately U.S. Post Office was also a U.S. District Court, home to amenities including a courtroom, chambers, a clerk’s office, jury lounge, conference rooms, and—up until 2007—the chambers of Judge James L. Oakes (1924—2007), whose service in the law since 1970 was pivotal to establishing Vermont as a national leader in environmental law.

James L. Oakes was born in Springfield, Illinois, in 1924. He attended Harvard as an undergrad, then proceeded to graduate from Harvard Law cum laude in 1947. In 1949 he returned to Vermont to become partners at law with Robert T. Gannett II in Brattleboro. He attended the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March, an experience which deeply affected his later work. In 1966 he won the race for Vermont Attorney General. He served as Chief Judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals from 1989 to 1992. 

During Oakes’ run as Attorney General he faced many charged issues such as the fairness of elections, the rebuilding of the Vermont Republican Party, property rights, and voting irregularities. The biggest impact on Oakes’ time in office was what is known as the “Irasburg Affair”. Judge Oakes took a leading role in the investigation of this racially charged incident. For more info, visit https://vermonthistory.org/documents/findaid/oakes.pdf

For 30 years, Judge Oakes was on the Vermont Board of Trustees for the Vermont Law School. In 1995 he was awarded a Doctor of Laws honorary degree. Oakes donated a collection of his own papers on environmental issues with regard to the law to Vermont Law School.

Site research in progress. Check back soon for more of the story.

On The Map

The Brattleboro Post Office

204 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301

U.S. Post Office & Former District Court

About the Research sites

The Brattleboro Words Project is working with the community to identify specific sites and themes significant to the study of words in Brattleboro and surrounding towns. Research Teams – classrooms/teachers, amateur historians, veterans, writers, artists and other community members — will produce audio segments and other work to be incorporated into audio walking, biking and driving tours tours.

Research Team Leader

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